World War II: Battle of Kursk -- German Planning

Figure 1.--Hitler delayed launching the Kursk offensive until more of the new Panther tanks could be delivered. There were also a few Tiger Is that were available. The Tiger I was a formibable weapon, but the Germans could not build very many of the massive tanks. Both the Panther and Tiger I had problems, but they helped make the Kursk cauldron the ultimate tank battle of the War, actully of all time. The Soviets were well informed about the German battle plan an constructed defensive belts including anti-tanks defensives as well as huge a formations tanks--more than 5,100, especially the battle-tested T-34s.

The German planning was to pause and rest while Manstein's forces waited to be resupplied and requipped. New equipment like the new Panther tanks, Tiger Is, Elefant tank destroyers, and other weaponry flowed east from German factories. The losses of men and material, however, had been enormous. New units were created and deployed. The Soviets were, however, both manufacturing tanks and other equipment as well as creating units much faster than the Germans. And American Lend Lease trucks beginning to arrive and giving the Red Army a mobility that they never had before. At Kursk this was not yet a major factor becausec it was set-piece battle. It would, howver, be the last major battle in which the Red Army did not have the all important advantage of mobility which had been simportant in the victories of 1941-42. The Wehrmact generals had misgivings about the offensive. The famed Panzer commander Heinz Guderian, reasonably questioned committing the Wehrmacht's remaining strength to a goal of such limited importance. Hitler was, however, adament. He wanted another summer offensive to regain the iniative in the East. He delayed the offensive until the Wehrmacht could be equipped with the new Panzer Mark IV tank--the renowned Panther. It was arguably the best tank of the War. The Mark IV could take on the Soviet T-34, but it was a much more complicated tank and some of the quirks could not be worked out. Not only could it not be produced in the numbers of T-34s, but it required much more intensive maintenance than the T-34. Hitler seemed oblivious to the fact that delaying the offensive to better equip the German force also gave the Soviets more toime to prepare and mass their forces. The Offensive was overseen by von Manstein. Manstein ammassed a force of nearly 3,000 tanks. The problem for the Germans was tht Zukov amassed twice that number. Guderian objected to the plan for the battle approved by Hitler. It was to be a set piece battle, but this meant that the Red Army would have time to prepare. Guderian understood this and argued that the battle plan deprived the Panzers from the mobility and scope of action which was their greatest advantage. The plan was a classic kessel operation with two armored pincers encircling the Red Army the bulge from north and south. The goal was to catch the Red Army units in the Bulge in a giant kessel -- repearing the greak kessel opetations of Barbarossa during 1941. Citadelle was Hitler's last desperate gamble to reverse the course of the War that he has set in motion. The Wehrmacht by this time was battered, but still a formidable force. The problemm for the Germans was that the Red Army they faced was not the same opponent they attacked in 1941. Manstein did not fully understand the size of the foce that the soviets had assembled or the strength of the Soviet defenses.


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Created: 2:48 AM 12/1/2015
Last updated: 2:48 AM 12/1/2015